Whatever your fitness goals may be, a good diet is half the battle won. Choosing the right carbohydrates means feeling fuller for longer, staving off the desire to reach for processed snacks. Tucking into a high-protein breakfast on workout days helps muscle gain. We’re not talking about giving up everything you love. Instead, here are the little changes you can make during your office lunch break, or at home for dinner to work towards a healthier, happier you.
1. Skip high processed foods
Heavily processed foods like soft drinks, jam spreads, potato chips, instant noodles and milk chocolate bars are often choke-full of empty calories, sugar and fat. They may taste addictively good, but overindulgence leads to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Break the habit of ordering a soft drink with your meals by substituting it with natural coconut juice (best had in the coconut itself) or drinks like Tea Halia with less sugar. Or you could simply bring your own water to the hawker centers.
2. Swap out sugars for natural sweeteners
Desserts, your morning kopi, even local delights like char kway teow contain sugar. Excessive sugar intake cause the blood sugar crash shortly after, leading to hunger pangs. Inflammation, diabetes and weight gain can all be linked back to this monosaccharide. Bringing along your own natural sweeteners like stevia or xylitol can help you sweeten things up without over-relying on sugar. Making home-cooked meals is another good way to control the amount of sugar and salt going into the dish.
3. Choose complex carbs
Many mixed rice stalls and even noodle stalls now offer slow-carb alternatives like whole wheat noodles and brown rice. Whole-grain bread, noodles and rice are higher in fiber compared to their white cousins, which means they take a longer time to digest and don’t give you the undesirable blood sugar spike (cause for lethargy and hunger soon after).
4. Get more veggies in
It’s not news that many green leafy vegetables like watercress, bok choy and spinach contain cancer-fighting nutrients like vitamin C, E, folate, beta-carotene and selenium. A serving of spinach will give you more iron, potassium, vitamin A, calcium and folate compared to a similar serving of potato. Don’t be shy – ask for extra vegetables with your next order or replace starchy ingredients with veggies at the mixed rice stall. Even if it costs a little more, it goes a long way to supplement your diet with necessary vitamins and minerals.
5. Surround yourself with nutritious fruits, not snacks
We spend most of our days sitting in office, and in the hustle and bustle of the day, it’s easy to just reach for the nearest pack of biscuits or crackers sitting next to our monitor. A high-fiber, slow-carb diet should keep you full till the next mealtime, but should the odd hunger pang hit, reach for a fresh fruit instead. Strawberries, blueberries and avocadoes are good options that are brimming with vitamins and minerals while being low in sugars.
On stay-home movie nights, make some fresh popcorn with coconut oil (80 calories per cup) or pop them in your air-fryer (30 calories per cup) for a low-calorie snack instead of reaching for the packet of crisps (152 calories per cup or smallest packet).
6. Limit deep fried food to once a week
Ah, who doesn’t relish the tearing off a piece of crispy fried chicken or sinking your teeth into a doughnut? Deep fried food with its lethal combination of sugar and fat triggers the release of “feel-good” chemicals like dopamine, which makes it little wonder so many of us enjoy them so much. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too…on your designated cheat day. Cutting out your favourite deep fried foods altogether is a mammoth ask, but creating an indulgence once a week you can look forward to? That’s most sustainable and you are more likely to stick to that in the long run.
Our top tip is to pick a day (Saturdays or Sundays are our popular choices) where you are most likely heading out with friends or family for meals or parties. Even on your cheat days, taking the skin off your fried chicken will help reduce your calorie intake by about 20% – just some food for thought!
7. Create nutritious packed lunches ahead of time
There’s no easier way to take charge of your nutrition than to meal prep at home for office lunches and cooking up a storm for dinner. Think slow-carb bases like quinoa and legumes and lean protein like salmon and chicken breast. Not sure where to start or what to buy for ingredients? Talk to our friendly trainers here at The District Training. Depending on your fitness goals and dietary restrictions, we can guide you in crafting an ideal meal prep plan to kick start your fitness journey.